In this billionaire space race, it does not seem enough to break the grumpy bonds of earth – not without glamor and a bevy of celebrities.
Richard Branson blended private space travel with show business on Sunday as he completed his highly anticipated Virgin Galactic flight high over the New Mexico desert. He hired Stephen Colbert, the host of the “Late Show”, to present excerpts from a live streaming production that was delayed by about 90 minutes due to the weather.
Mr. Colbert played a humorous rivalry he’d had with the entrepreneur on his talk shows over the years and joked about some of Mr. Branson’s failed business ventures, like Virgin Cola.
“Seriously, he lost money selling sugar water,” joked Mr. Colbert. “All aboard.”
Later in production, Grammy-winning artist Khalid made an appearance in front of a small crowd on an outdoor stage at Spaceport America where his new song “New Normal” was released. The musician, who sprayed mist on a stage as a machine in a sequined jacket, played three songs.
“Look how far we have come as a human race,” he said during the live stream.
About two hours before take-off, Mr Branson shared a photo of himself with a shoeless Elon Musk, a billionaire rival in the private conquest of outer space.
“Great to start the morning with a friend,” Branson said on Twitter.
There was no lack of display when Mr. Branson arrived at Spaceport America. Flanked by two white Range Rovers, the British Mughal rode a bike to the site at dawn, a video posted by Mr Branson showed. Once there, other members of the flight crew greeted him and joked that he was too late.
However, in England, where he was knighted by Prince Charles in 2000, Mr. Branson was not entirely in the limelight. Mr Branson’s space odyssey coincided with the men’s tennis final at Wimbledon on Sunday – historically it has been billed to US television audiences as “Breakfast at Wimbledon”.
The flight also came just hours before England was due to face Italy in the Euro 2020 soccer final, which has caught the collective attention of many people in the UK. Some on social media suggested that Mr. Branson’s timing was not ideal.
The livestream production was not without hiccups. The show’s hosts tried to interview Mr. Branson when the plane reached space, but the audio feed did not work. After re-entering, many of his words were garbled as he tried to describe what it was like to visit space.